Sister Diana, a Dominican Sister of St Catherine of Siena of Mosul, was speaking at a congressional committee hearing on Wednesday.
“We want nothing more than to go back to our lives; we want nothing more than to go home,” she told the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
During the hearing, entitled Ancient Communities Under Attack: ISIS’s War on Religious Minorities, Sister Diana was one of four women who spoke of the urgent need to not only help and protect religious minorities but also to preserve and save religious sites.
Recounting her own experience, Sister Diana said a bomb exploded at the sisters’ convent in Mosul in 2009. The sisters were unharmed but were forced to move to Qaraqosh in Iraq’s Nineveh Plain. Last year ISIS invaded that region forcing the sisters to flee once again. She said ISIS told Christians they either had to convert to Islam, pay a tribute to ISIS or leave with “nothing more than the clothes on their back”. In her case, she left only with her habit and her purse, which fortunately had her passport in it. Other sisters, she said, were not able to get their important papers before the forced evacuation.
The Dominican sisters joined more than 120,000 people displaced and homeless in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. She told the House committee members that this uprooting and theft of “everything that the Christians owned, displaced them body and soul, stripping away their humanity and dignity.”
Reading from her prepared text, the sister told the members of Congress and those seated in the hearing room: “ISIS’s plan is to evacuate the land of Christians and wipe the earth clean of any evidence that we ever existed.”
“This is cultural and human genocide,” she said, adding that the loss of the Christian community has “placed the whole region on the edge of a terrible catastrophe. Christians have for centuries been the bridge that connects Eastern and Western cultures. Destroying this bridge will leave an isolated, inculturated conflict zone emptied of cultural and religious diversity.”
She said the first priority is to help Iraqi Christians return to their homes by freeing the region from ISIS control. Next, there will need to be major rebuilding effort to restore roads, water, electricity and buildings including churches and monasteries.
When a member of Congress asked about other needs, Sister Diana stressed the urgency for psychological help for the religious minority refugees.
“We don’t have strong programs,” she said, noting that a Yezidi woman who came to the sisters for help had been repeatedly raped by ISIS members and suffered from burns. “She can’t control herself when she tells her story,” Sister Diana said, adding that the sisters are trying to find treatment for her.
She also told the committee that the people they work with have not lost faith through the ordeals they have experienced. “Our faith is increasing and making us stronger,” she said.
“We were displaced yet the hand of God is still with us. In the midst of darkness we see God holding us,” she said, calling it a “gift of the Holy Spirit giving us strength to stay in our country and have hope that someday we will go back home.”
The sister said it was difficult for her to talk about the situation of Christians in Iraq. “As a religious sister, I am not comfortable with the media and so much attention,” she said. “But I am here and I am here to ask you, to implore you for the sake of our common humanity to help us. Stand with us as we, as Christians, have stood with all the people of the world and help us.”
27-05-2015 - Year XXII - Num. 098
|General audience: engagement is a path of preparation|
Vatican City, 27 May 2015 (VIS) – Engagement, the time devoted to laying the groundwork for a project of love taken on in full freedom and awareness, was the theme of Pope Francis' catechesis during today's Wednesday general audience.
“Betrothal is, in other words, the time in which two people are called to work on love, a shared and profound task” as “the alliance of love between a man and a woman, an alliance for life, cannot be improvised, and is not made in a day; it is a path on which one learns and refines. … It is, I dare say, an artisanal alliance. To make two lives one is almost a miracle of freedom and of the heart, entrusted to faith. We must perhaps work more on this point, as our 'sentimental coordinates' have become a little confused. Those who wish to attain everything immediately, also give up on everything straight away at the first hurdle (or at the first opportunity). … Engagement channels the will to preserve something together, something that should never be bought or sold, betrayed or abandoned, however tempting the alternatives may be”.
Francis recalled the Italian writer Alessandro Manzoni's novel “I promessi sposi”, “The Betrothed”, and invited those present to read it as it is “an authentic masterpiece which recounts the story of a betrothed couple who suffer greatly, who walk a path full of many difficulties before arriving at the end, at marriage. Do not forget this masterpiece on betrothal … read it and you will see beauty and suffering, but also the faithfulness of the betrothed couple”.
“The Church, in her wisdom, maintains the distinction between engaged and married couples – they are not the same – precisely in view of the delicate and profound nature of this fact. We are careful not to light-heartedly dismiss this wise teaching, nurtured by the experience of happily married life. The powerful symbols of the body hold the keys to the soul: we cannot treat the bonds of the flesh lightly, without opening up lasting wounds to the spirit”, continued the Holy Father, remarking that “today's culture and society have become rather indifferent to the delicate and serious nature of this passage. And on the other hand, they cannot be said to be generous with the young, who seriously intend to maintain a household and start a family. Rather, they set up a thousand obstacles, mental and practical”.
Pre-matrimonial courses are a special expression of preparation that offer engaged couples what may indeed be the sole opportunity to “reflect on their experience in terms that are not banal. Yes, many couples stay together for a long time, also intimately, at times living together, without truly knowing each other”, he observed. “Therefore there is a need to re-evaluate engagement as a time to get to know each other and for sharing a plan. … And focusing also here on the essential point: the Bible, to be rediscovered together, in a conscious way; prayer, in its liturgical dimension, but also in terms of 'domestic prayer' … in the Sacraments … in which the Lord comes to reside in the betrothed couple and prepares them to truly accept each other with the grace of Christ; and fraternity with the poor, the needy, which leads us towards sobriety and sharing. Couples who make this commitment both grow, and all this leads to preparing a beautiful marriage celebrated in a different way, not worldly but Christian”.
The Pope invited couples to reflect on and repeat to each other the words of the prophet Hosea: “And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord”. “May every engaged couple think of this and say to each other, 'I will make you my spouse'. Wait for that moment; it is a moment on a path on which one proceeds slowly, a path of ripening. One must not pass through the different stages too quickly. Ripening takes place in this way, step by step”.
Therefore, “the time of betrothal must truly be a time of initiation … in surprise at the spiritual gifts that the Lord, through the Church, enriches the horizon of the new family that he prepares to live in His blessing”.
Pope Francis concluded by asking the thousands of faithful in St. Peter's Square to pray to the Holy Family of Nazareth so that engaged couples may understand the beauty of the path of preparation for lifelong marriage, and greeted couples in the square by wishing them a happy engagement.
|Other Pontifical Acts|
Vatican City, 27 May 2015 (VIS) – The Holy Father has appointed:
- Bishop Pedro Carlos Cipolini of Amparo, Brazil, as bishop of Santo Andre (area 825, population 2,704,000, Catholics 2,415,000, priests 160, permanent deacons 28, religious 193), Brazil. He succeeds Bishop Nelson Westrupp, S.C.I., whose resignation from the pastoral care of the same diocese upon reaching the age limit was accepted by the Holy Father.
- Bishop Guerrino Riccardo Brusati of Caetite, Brazil, as bishop of Janauba (area 29,296, population 406,000, Catholics 345,000, priests 36, permanent deacons 3, religious 26), Brazil.
About the Author:
Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC
Date of Birth: June 29, 1972
Place of Birth: Dearborn, MichiganShared from http://www.fathercalloway.com/
Religious Community: Congregation of Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary
Priesthood Ordination: May 31, 2003 at The National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, MA
Favorite Saints: Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, Guardian Angel, St. Michael the Archangel
- B.A. (Franciscan University of Steubenville)
- M.Div. (Dominican House of Studies, Washington, DC)
- S.T.B. (Dominican House of Studies, Washington, DC)
- S.T.L. (International Marian Research Institute, Dayton)
Favorite Devotions: Rosary, Divine Mercy
Favorite Books: True Devotion to Mary (St. Louis de Montfort),
The World's First Love (Fulton J. Sheen), Diary of St. Faustina
Favorite Sacred Places: Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome, Shrine of Our Lady of Lichen in Poland
Favorite Secular Places: San Diego, New Zealand, Scotland, Canadian Rockies, Glacier National Park (Montana),
Grand Cayman Island
Favorite Hobby: Surfing!
For another reason, however, Bernard's name will forever be famous in history. Since the most ancient times there was a path across the Pennine Alps leading from the valley of Aosta to the Swiss canton of Valais, over what is now the pass of the Great St. Bernard. This pass is covered with perpetual snow from seven to eight feet deep, and drifts sometimes accumulate to the height of forty feet. Though the pass was extremely dangerous, especially in the springtime on account of avalanches, yet it was often used by French and German pilgrims on their way to Rome. For the convenience and protection of travelers
St. Bernard founded a monastery and hospice at the highest point of the pass, 8,000 feet above sea-level, in the year 962. A few years later he established another hospice on the Little St. Bernard, a mountain of the Graian Alps, 7,076 feet above sea-level. Both were placed in charge of Augustinian monks after pontifical approval had been obtained by him during a visit to Rome. These hospices are renowned for the generous hospitality extended to all travelers over the Great and Little St. Bernard, so called in honor of the founder of these charitable institutions. At all seasons of the year, but especially during heavy snow-storms, the heroic monks accompanied by their well-trained dogs, go out in search of victims who may have succumbed to the severity of the weather. They offer food, clothing, and shelter to the unfortunate travelers and take care of the dead. They depend on gifts and collections for sustenance. At present, the order consists of about forty members, the majority of whom live at the hospice while some have charge of neighboring parishes. The last act of St. Bernard's life was the reconciliation of two noblemen whose strife threatened a fatal issue. He was interred in the cloister of St. Lawrence. Venerated as a saint from the twelfth century in many places of Piedmont (Aosta, Novara, Brescia), he was not canonized until 1681, by Innocent XI. His feast is also celebrated on the 15th of June in some Calendars. (From the Catholic Encyclopedia)
The list of tragedies in the family of the Blessed Margaret is still far from complete, but sufficient instances have been given to justify the description we have given of her whole career. Margaret, Countess of Salisbury, was born at Farley Castle, near Bath, on 14th August, in or about the year 1473. Her mother, Isabel, daughter of the above-mentioned "King-maker," died 22nd December, 1476, and her father in the Tower nearly two years later. During the reign of Edward IV, little Margaret and her brother were brought up at Sheen, with the children of her uncle, King Edward IV. At his death, Margaret and Edward, after a short stay at Warwick Castle—their ancestral home—resided for a short time at the Court of Richard III. When the crook-back King's son died, the youthful Earl of Warwick became de jure heir to the Crown, and Margaret, his sister, in the same way, Princess Royal. These short-lived honours, however, ended in 1485, when the victory of Bosworth gave the Throne to the Tudor Adventurer who, as Henry VII was to introduce a new dynasty and the oldest and most repulsive form of Oriental despotism into the realm!
England, as the late Mr. J. M. Kerr shows in his well-known Elements of Public Law, was as practically free in 1485 as she was in the nineteenth century. By the time of the death of Harry Tudor's appalling son, the country had become as abject and prostrate as any of the dominions of contemporary Sultans or Rajahs! In 1491, when Margaret was about eighteen years of age, she was married by the King, Henry VII, to a distant relative and thorough-going supporter of his own, Sir Richard Pole. The Order of the Garter was conferred upon this gentleman, who hailed from Buckinghamshire, and in 1486, on the birth of Prince Arthur, the King's eldest son, he received the high position of Governor to the Prince of Wales.
Lady Pole, as she was now, appears to have been happy in her union. Five children were born of the marriage, and both she and her husband stood high in the favour of the cold and calculating King. But one dark cloud hung ever over her. All this time her unhappy brother, the true heir to the Crown, lay in the Tower, his only "crime," of course, being that summed up in the phrase, "the right of the first-born is his!" Secluded from all society, and most shamefully neglected, the poor young Earl of Warwick grew up in almost total ignorance and simplicity, so as not to know, as men said, "a goose from a capon." Once, to expose the Lambert Simnel pretensions by the most convincing of all proofs, Henry caused the unhappy youth to be paraded through London, and this show duly over, the royal captive was again consigned to his lonely prison.
Then in 1499, came his alleged attempt to escape, together with another claimant, the plebeian Perkin Warbeck, and the cruel and selfish despot had a plausible pretext for bringing the "last of the Plantagenets to the scaffold." This was one of the most brutal and callous State murders in the whole of English history, and the absence of any sort of protest either from the servile hierarchy or the upstart lords that bowed down before Henry's throne, shows how deeply the nation had already sunk in political and social slavery! The decapitated corpse of the young and perfectly innocent Earl, thus foully done to death, was interred at Bisham Priory, near Maidenhead, a place where his grief-stricken sister was to find a home nearer the end of her own sorrow-laden and tragic life. When the sickly Arthur married Catharine of Aragon, and went to keep his short-lived Court at Ludlow Castle, Lady Pole became one of the ladies of the Princess of Wales. The appointment must have carried with it poignant reflections on both sides. For Catharine herself believed—and was later bitterly to make her foreboding known—that no good could come of her union with the scion of the Tudor House, since that union had been brought about by the price of innocent blood! For the "most Catholic"—and most calculating—King Ferdinand VII, her father, had made it one of the conditions of his daughter's nuptials, that there should be no claimants to the English Crown. His royal brother of England had forthwith nobly obliged by presenting to the Monarch of Castile and Aragon, the head of the innocent Warwick on a charger—and "all went merry as a marriage-bell"—for a time! Catharine on her side, soon conceived a great affection for the sister of one so cruelly sacrificed to make smooth her own matrimonial path. She did all she could to forward the interests of the Pole family, notably after the death of Sir Richard in 1503.
There can also be little doubt that when, in November, 1513, Parliament reversed the infamous Act of Attainder passed on her murdered brother and restored to Margaret's family the title and estates, forfeited on that iniquitous occasion, the excellent Queen Catharine again proved herself a friend at Court, and facilitated by her influence the partial undoing of this hideous murder by statute. When the Princess Mary, afterwards Queen, was baptized in the Church of the Franciscan Observants at Greenwich, the Countess of Salisbury—as Lady Margaret Pole had now become, owing to the reversal of her brother's attainder, and the restoration of the ancestral honours—held the child at the font. Nine years later, she was nominated Governess of the Princess, and appointed to preside over the Court of the little royal lady at Ludlow Castle, one of the official residences of the Princes and Princesses of Wales. Meanwhile the children of the Lady Salisbury were growing up, and the most interesting of them was undoubtedly Reginald, the future Cardinal and last Catholic Archbishop of Canterbury. Endowed by Providence with great personal beauty and rare mental gifts, he possessed what was greater than these, that sense of principle, and that elevated moral standard which were so conspicuously lacking to the ruling and upper classes throughout the Tudor period. A boy Bachelor of Oxford at the age of fifteen, he had afterwards studied the Canon Law at Padua. The world, indeed, was at the feet of this singularly gifted youth. Henry was to think of making him Archbishop of York after the death of Wolsey, and still later was even more intensely to think of having him assassinated! Meanwhile, as a most winsome and delectable youth, he was a decided "catch" from the matrimonial point of view, and good Queen Catharine, ever eager to serve a family that had suffered so much through her, but surely not by her, had ideas of marrying the Princess Mary to the brilliant son of her almost lifelong friend.
The "future" of the much-discussed Reginald, however, was settled, and settled finally by the complications and menaces of the royal divorce question which became acute about 1527-8. A little later, the French Ambassador Castillon, horrified at the well-nigh weekly slaughter that had become almost a mere incident in the life of England at this period, exclaimed: "I think few Lords feel safe in this country!" Reginald Pole, to whom the King looked for learned and moral support at this crisis, was certainly one of the majority, so to save his head, he prudently withdrew to the Continent, under the pretext of pursuing his theological studies. The immediate effect of the King's divorce and subsequent marriage with Anne Boleyn, was to deprive the Countess of Salisbury of her post of Governess to the Princess Mary, and, indeed, to cause her forcible separation from her charge to whom she had become tenderly attached. Robbed thus of the friends of her youth—doomed to see many of them die in prison or on the scaffold—herself declared illegitimate and deprived of her just rights—is it any wonder that Mary learnt to loathe the very name of the "Reformation?" For from the first, its aiders and abetters ever showed themselves the thick and thin supporters of despotism—the despotism that plundered the church and the poor—cynically gave the "people" a Bible which most of them could neither read nor understand—and filled the whole country with nauseating phrases and catchwords redolent of cant and hypocrisy! All this has to be borne in mind in judging of the Queen of "bloody" memory.
After the breaking up of the Princess Mary's household, Lady Salisbury went to live for a time at Bisham, close to her murdered brother's "last long home." The greater Abbeys, as is well-known, were not suppressed till 1539, but for many months before this, it was generally understood throughout England that the Religious Houses were doomed. Henry's prodigality was enormous, and his meretricious Court and the host of extravagances its pleasures—noble and ignoble—entailed, made him cast envious eyes on the age—long monastic Foundations and their material possessions. This was quite apart from their known dislike of his schismatical policy, and so the fate of Abbeys and Priories was soon sealed. The Priory of Canons Regular of St. Augustine at Bisham was dear to Lady Salisbury and her family, apart from its sacred character, and the fact that the remains of their murdered relative, the ill-fated Earl of Warwick, lay buried within its precincts. For it had been founded by William de Montacute, Earl of Salisbury, in the reign of Edward III, and so might almost be regarded as a quasi possession of the house. Lady Salisbury now advised the Prior not to resign the Priory unless the inevitable occurred, when, of course, all would be able to see that the dissolution had been made by force. The said Prior was ejected to make way for the notorious William Barlow, who shortly afterwards "surrendered" the House to the King. The year that saw the passing of Bisham and the rest of the abodes of "the Monks of Old," was the year of the appearance of Reginald Pole's treatise De Unitate Ecclesiastical The book gave the lie to almost every one of Henry's recent declarations on the subject of the Church, and in arraigning him at the bar of ecclesiastical history and Catholic doctrine, exposed him to the condemnation of Europe. The rage of the royal Nero, of course, knew no bounds. In vain did he command Pole to return to England without excuse or delay so as to lose his head! Equally in vain did he instruct Sir Thomas Wyatt and other of his agents abroad, to have his daring relative assassinated.1 Pole was now a Cardinal and busy pushing forward the initial negotiations and arrangements that were to prepare the way for the Council of Trent. His office as Legate to the Low Countries was all in the same direction—to make peace between the Emperor and France, and so facilitate the opening of the Council that was to do so much to heal the wounds of Holy Church. He was not, as Lingard shows (History, vol. v., chap. ii.), engineering a crusade against the Tudor Monster, though, no doubt, the thought of such a movement was uppermost In many minds. Unable either to get the Cardinal in his toils or murdered out of hand, Henry struck at his kinsfolk and acquaintances. In November, 1538, Henry Lord Montague, Sir Geoffrey Pole, Sir Edmund Neville, the Marquis of Exeter, and Sir Nicholas Carew, were lodged in the Tower on the usual charge of "Treason." Historic accuracy compels us to admit that Cardinal Pole, like Lord Stafford in 1680, was not "a man beloved of his own relatives," at least in this crisis. His own mother had seen the danger likely to arise from his book and had even spoken of him as "a traitor." His brother, Lord Montague had likewise written letters of remonstrance to him. Needless to say all this was largely pro forma to divert Henry's fatal wrath, but whatever was the object all was in vain, and this crowd of noble personages, except Sir Geoffrey Pole, were done to death after the usual judicial mummery on Tower Hill, 3rd January, 1539.
Before being officially murdered, Lord Montague asked for absolution for having taken the Oath of Supremacy, and this fact is said to have sealed his fate. The "execution" of these gentlemen, as usual, caused universal horror, and Henry was widely compared to the worst of the persecutors in the days of pagan Rome, though that heathen city, at least, had the advantage of a Pretorian Guard to deliver its citizens from their tyrants when these got past all bearing. While her family was being prepared for the slaughter—to make a Tudor holiday—the now aged Countess of Salisbury was living in retirement at Warblington, near Havant in Hampshire. She was arrested there by Fitz William, Earl of Southampton, and Goodrich, Bishop of Ely, 13th November, 1538, and almost immediately removed to Cowdray, Sussex. Here she remained several months, being treated by the Earl of Southampton, her jailer, with great harshness. Her trunks and coffer were searched, and in one of these was found a tunic or "vestment," embroidered with the Five Wounds. It looks as if an ordinary tabard adorned with one of the devices of the Plantaganets, Margaret's ancestors, had come to light, but Cromwell and his Master affected to see in this old raiment a traitorous connection with the "Pilgrimage of Grace," the banner of which was a representation of Our Lord's Wounds. Another murder by Act of Parliament, of course, went forward, and on 28th June, 1539, the Countess of Salisbury, her eldest son, the Marquis of Exeter, and a number of other persons of lesser degree, including three Irish priests "for carrying letters to the Pope," were added to the "attainted" victims of the King. The news of his dear mother's condemnation greatly affected the Cardinal. "You have heard, I believe, of my mother being condemned by public Council to death, or rather to eternal life," he wrote on 22nd September, of the same year. "Not only has he who condemned her, condemned to death a woman of seventy—than whom he has no nearer relative, except his daughter, and of whom he used to say there was no holier woman in his kingdom—but at the same time her grandson, son of my brother, a child, the remaining hope of our race.1 See how far this tyranny has gone, which began with priests, in whose order it only consumed the best, then [went on] to nobles, and there, too, destroyed the best." (Epistolae Poli, ii, 191.) On the very day that the obsequious Divan, misnamed Parliament, passed the Bill of Attainder, Margaret was transferred from Cowdray to the Tower. There for two years, she suffered much from cold and neglect, for she had been hurried to London without any time to make the necessary preparations. At last it was resolved to add her venerable name to those of the other martyrs of the Faith. She was sacrificed out of hatred to her son, the great champion of the Church, whose discourses and writings had done so much to expose to the world the villainies of the Tudor Tiberius and his Sejanus, Thomas Cromwell, and make all just men shrink with horror at the very mention of the names of these two oppressors of the human race. The Countess of Salisbury was taken to East Smithfield early in the morning of 28th May, 1541, and there beheaded on a low block or log in the presence of the Lord Mayor, Aldermen, and a few other spectators. The regular headsman was away from London at the time, and his deputy, an unskilful lout, hacked at the blessed Martyr in such a way as to give some foundation to the story afterwards made current by Lord Herbert of Cherbury, that she had refused to lay her head on the block and was, therefore, struck repeatedly by the executioner till she fell dead. Before her death, she prayed for the King, Queen (Catherine Howard), Prince of Wales (later Edward VI), and the Princess Mary Her last words were: "Blessed are they who suffer persecution for justice' sake for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven." The body of the Blessed Margaret, Countess of Salisbury, was interred in the Tower, in that Chapel dedicated to St. Peter's Chains, whose illustrious dead and historic associations are enshrined in Macaulay's memorable lines. She was declared Blessed with many of the rest of the English Martyrs by Leo XIII, 29th December, 1886. Others than her co-religionists, no doubt, like to reflect that a life, so marked by piety, and so full of griefs ever heroically borne, has after the lapse of nearly four centuries been thus honoured, and that the last direct descendant of the Plantaganet line has her place in the Hagiography of the Church so long associated with their sway. Endnotes 1 Two ruffians nearly carried out the King's benign intention concerning his kinsman, but Pole magnanimously forgave the would-be murderers, and merely sent them to the galleys for a few days. But after this he increased his bodyguard which then formed part of every Cardinal's household, at least in Italy. 2 This "remaining hope of our race" was Edward Courtenay, Earl of Devon, who after a captivity of sixteen years in the Tower, was among the prisoners released by Queen Mary immediately after her accession, 1553. Had he been "possible," there is little doubt but that the Queen would hare married him, and so saved all the odium and trouble that followed from the highly unpopular "Spanish match." Courtenay, who had probably been ruined in character by neglect and imprisonment, soon left the country, and ended his unworthy life at Padua, 1556. (Taken from Vol. V of "The Lives or the Fathers, Martyrs and Other Principal Saints" by the Rev. Alban Butler, (c) Copyright 1954, Virtue and Company, Limited, London.)
ABBOT AND BISHOP OF PARIS
Feast: May 28
|St. Germanus, the glory of the church of France in the sixth age, was born in the territory of Autun about the year 469. He was brought up in piety and learning under the care of Scapilion his cousin, a holy priest. In his youth no weather could divert him from always going to Matins at midnight, though the church was above a mile from the place of his abode. Being ordained priest by St. Agrippinus bishop of Autun, he was made abbot of St. Symphorian's in the suburbs of that city, a house since converted into a priory of regular canons. Fortunatus, bishop of Poitiers, who was well acquainted with our saint, tells us that he was favored at that time with the gifts of miracles and prophecy. It was his custom to watch great part of the night in the church in prayer, while his monks slept. One night in a dream he thought a venerable old man presented him with the keys of the city of Paris and said to him, that God committed to his care the inhabitants of that city, that he should save them from perishing. Four years after this divine admonition, in 554, happening to be at Paris when that see became vacant, on the demise of the bishop Eusebius, he was exalted to the episcopal chair, though he endeavored by many tears to decline the charge. His promotion made no alteration in his continual fasts and other austerities; and the same simplicity and frugality appeared in his dress, table, and furniture. In the evening at nine o'clock he went to the church, and staved there in prayer till after Matins, that is, in summer till about break of day His house was perpetually crowded with the poor and the afflicted. and he had always many beggars at his own table, at which no dainty meats were ever served; he took care that the souls of his guests should be refreshed at the same time with their bodies, by the reading of some pious book. God gave to his sermons a wonderful influence over the minds of ale ranks of people; so that the face of the whole city was in a very short time quite changed. Vanities were abolished, dances and profane amusements laid aside, enmities and discord extinguished, and sinners reclaimed. King Childebert, who till then had been an ambitious worldly prince, by the sweetness and the powerful discourses of the saint, was entirely converted to piety, and by his advice reformed his whole court. And so desirous did that prince become of exchanging the perishing goods of this world for eternal treasures, that, not content with making many religious foundations, to be nurseries of piety in all succeeding ages, and with sending incredible sums of money to the good bishop, to be distributed among the indigent after his coffers were drained he melted down his silver plate, and gave away the chains which he wore about his neck, begging the bishop, whom he made the steward of his charities, never to cease giving, assuring him that on his side he should never be tired with supplying all things for the relief and comfort of the distressed.|
In the year 542, king Childebert, together with his brother Clotaire, making war in Spain, besieged Saragossa. The inhabitants of that city reposed a particular confidence in the patronage of St. Vincent, whose relics they carried in procession within sight of the French camp. King Childebert was moved with their devotion, and desiring to speak with the bishop of the city, promised to withdraw his army, on condition he might obtain some portion of the relics of St. Vincent. The bishop gave him the stole which that holy deacon wore at the altar. Upon which the king raised the siege, and, at his return to Paris, built a church in honor of St. Vincent, and of the Holy Cross; which is now called St. Germain's in the meadows, and stands in the suburbs of Paris. Childebert falling sick at his palace at Celles, near Melun, at the confluence of the Yon and Seine, St. Germanus paid him a visit; and when the physicians had in vain tried every thing, all human means failing, the saint spent the whole night in prayer for his recovery, and in the morning laid his hands on him; and at the same moment the king found himself perfectly healed. The king relates himself this miracle in his letters patent, in which, in gratitude to God for this benefit, he gave to the church of Paris and the bishop Germanus, the land of Celles, where he had received this favor. The good king did not long survive. As the king had chosen the church of St. Vincent for the place of his burial, the saint, assisted by six other bishops, performed the ceremony of the dedication on the 23d of December, 558, the very day on which that prince died. The king likewise had built a large monastery joining to this new church, which he endowed most liberally with the fief of Issy and other lands, on part of which a considerable suburb of Paris has been since built. This magnificent edifice was called the Golden Church, the walls being covered on the outside with plates of brass gilt, and within adorned with paintings on a rich gilt ground.1 This church was plundered by the Normans, in 845, 857, 858, and set on fire by them in 861 and 881; but rebuilt in 1014, and dedicated by pope Alexander III. in 1163. The lower part of the great tower and its gate with the statues of Clovis, Clodomir, Thierri, Childebert and his wife Ultrogotta, Clotaire, and others, seem to be as old as the time of king Childebert. This prince committed the monastery and church to the care of our saint, who placed there monks under the holy abbot Droctoveus, whom he had invited from Autun, where he had formed him to a religious life. Clotaire, who succeeded his brother Childebert, was the last of the sons of the great Clovis; and united again the four kingdoms of France into one monarchy. On his removing from Soissons to Paris, he at first seemed to treat the holy bishop coldly; but falling ill soon after of a violent fever, was put in mind by some that were about him to send for St. Germanus. He did so, and full of confidence in the power of God and the sanctity of his servant, took hold of his clothes and applied them to the parts of his body where he felt pain, and recovered immediately. From that moment he always treated the saint even with greater honor than Childebert had done. But that prince dying shortly after, in 561, his four sons, Charibert, Gontran, Sigebert, and Chilperic, divided the French monarchy into four kingdoms, in the same manner as the sons of Clovis had done. That of Paris was given to Charibert or Aribert, Gontran was king of Orleans and Burgundy, Sigebert of Austrasia, and Chilperic of Soissons. Charibert sunk into a vicious indolence, yet was obstinate and headstrong in his passions not being divested of all the prejudices of paganism, he divorced his wife Ingoberga, and took to wife Marcovesa her maid, who had worn a religious habit; and after her death, he married her sister Merofleda, Ingoberga being still living. Our saint many ways endeavored to make him sensible of the enormity of his crimes; but finding all his remonstrances lost on him, he proceeded so far as to excommunicate him and the accomplice of his sin, to hinder at least the dangerous influence of his scandalous example. The sinners were hardened in their evil courses; but God revenged the contempt of his laws and of the holy pastor as he has often done, by visible judgments; for the criminal lady fell ill and died in a few days, and the adulterous king did not long survive her, leaving by his lawful wife only three daughters, two of whom became nuns, the third, called Bertha, was married to Ethelbert, king of Kent.
Upon the death of Charibert in 570, his three brothers divided his dominions; but not being able to agree who should be master of Paris, the capital, came to an accommodation that they should hold it jointly, on condition that none of them should go into the city without the leave of the other two St. Germanus found his flock involved by this agreement in great difficulties, and the city divided into three different parties, always plotting and counterplotting against one another. He did all that the most consummate charity, prudence, and vigilance could do, to preserve the public peace; yet Sigebert and Chilperic appeared in arms, being fired by ambition, and stirred up by their wicked queens Fredegonda, wife of the latter, and Brunehaut of the former, burning with the most implacable jealousy against each other. The saint prevailed with them to suspend their hostilities for some time. At length Chilperic invaded the territories of Sigebert, but being worsted in battle, fled to Tournay. This victory left Sigebert free liberty of going to Paris with his wife Brunehaut and children, where he was received as conqueror. St. Germanus wrote to the queen, conjuring her to employ her interest with her husband to restore the peace of France, and to spare the life and fortune of a brother, whose ruin and blood would cry to heaven for vengeance. But Brunehaut's passion rendered her deaf to all remonstrances, and Sigebert was determined by her furious counsels to besiege Tournay. As he was setting out for this enterprise, he was met by St. Germanus, who told him that if he forgave his brother, he should return victorious; but if he was bent on his death, divine justice would overtake him, and his own death should prevent the execution of his unnatural design. Sigebert allowed this wholesome advice no weight; but the event showed that God had put these words in the mouth of the good bishop; for queen Fredegonda, enraged at the desperate posture of her husband's.
affairs, hired two assassins, who dispatched him with poisoned daggers, while he made a halt in his march at Vitri, in 575, after he had reigned fourteen years, with some reputation of humanity, as Fortunatus tells us.
Chilperic, by his tyranny and oppressions, deserved to be styled the French Nero, as St. Gregory of Tours calls him. He sacrificed his own children by former wives to the fury of Fredegonda, but having discovered her infidelity to him, he was, by her contrivance, murdered by her gallant in 584. Fredegonda was regent of the kingdoms of Soissons and Paris for her son Clotaire III., and continued her practices and wars against Brunehaut and her son till she died, in 601. Brunehaut governed the kingdom of Austrasia for her son Childebert II., and after his death for her grandson Theodebert; but afterwards persuaded Theodoric, her second grandson, who reigned at Challons, to destroy him and his whole family in fill. The year following Theodoric died, and Clotaire II., surnamed the Great, son of Fredegonda, inheriting both their estates, accused Brunehaut before the states of putting to death ten kings and St. Desiderius, bishop of Vienne, because he had reproved her for her public scandalous lusts, and many other illustrious persons. She had at first appeared liberal, and built several churches; but afterwards became infamous for her cruelty, avarice, restless ambition, and insatiable lusts, to which she sacrificed all things, and employed both the sword and poison in perpetrating her wicked designs. Being condemned by the states, she was put to the rack during three days, and afterwards dragged to death, being tied to the tail of a wild mare; or, according to others, drawn betwixt four horses, in 613.
St. Germanus lived not to see the miserable ends of these two firebrands of their country. In his old age he lost nothing of that zeal and activity with which he had filled the great duties of his station in the vigor of his life, nor did the weakness to which his corporal austerities had reduced him, make him abate any thing in the mortifications of his penitential life, in which he redoubled his fervor as he approached nearer to the end of his course. By his zeal the remains of idolatry were extirpated in France. In the third council of Paris, in 557, he had the principal share in drawing up the canons. By his advice, king Childebert issued an edict commanding all idols to be destroyed throughout his dominions, and forbidding all indecent dances and diversions on Sundays and festivals. The saint continued his labors for the conversion of sinners till he was called to receive the reward of them on the 28th of May, 576, being eighty years old. King Chilperic composed his epitaph, in which he extols his zeal for the salvation of his people, and their affection and veneration for his person. He mentions the miracles which were wrought at his tomb, and says that sight was restored to the blind and speech to the dumb.2 He was, according to his own desire, buried in St. Symphorian's chapel, which he built at the bottom of the church of St. Vincent already mentioned. Many miracles manifested his sanctity, of which Fortunatus, then a priest, afterwards bishop of Poitiers, has left us a history, in which he gives two on his own evidence. Also two anonymous monks compiled relations of several miracles of St. Germanus, which Aimoinus, a monk of this monastery in 870, and a careful writer, digested into two books.3 The relics of St. Germanus remained in the aforesaid chapel till the year 754, when the abbot removed them into the body of the church. The ceremony of this translation was performed with great solemnity; and king Pepin thought himself honored by assisting at it.
Prince Charles, known afterwards by the title of Charlemagne, who was then but seven years old, attended his father on this occasion, and was so strongly affected with the miracles performed at that time, that when he came to the crown, he took a particular pleasure in relating them, with all their circumstances. The greatest part of the relics of St. Germanus remain still in this church of St. Vincent, commonly called St. Germain-des-Prez. This abbey is possessed of the original privilege of its foundation and exemption, written on bark, and subscribed by St. Germanus, St. Nicetius, and several other bishops. The most valuable work of St. Germanus of Paris, is An Exposition of the Liturgy, published from an ancient manuscript by Dom. Martenne.4 The characteristical virtue of St. Germanus was his unbounded charity to the poor. Liberality in alms moves God to be liberal to us in the dispensations of his spiritual graces; but he who hardens his heart to the injuries and wants of others, shuts against himself the treasury of heaven.
APOSTLE OF ENGLAND, ARCHBISHOP
Feast: May 27
|When Pope Gregory began to plan for the evangelization of England, the land was still largely pagan, although in the southwest there were remnants of earlier missionary efforts. To lead this important mission, Gregory chose Augustine, prior of St. Andrew's monastery in Rome, of which Gregory had been the founder. Nothing is known of Augustine's life until the year 596, when, with a party of Benedictine monks, he set out northwards from Rome. He carried letters of commendation to various Gallic bishops. On reaching Provence, the monks accompanying Augustine grew fearful of the dangers that lay ahead. Alarming stories were told of the ferocity of the pagans and the hazards of the Channel crossing. They persuaded Augustine to return to Rome to ask the Pope's permission to abandon the whole enterprise. Meanwhile the Pope had received word that the common people of England and also some of their chieftains and kings were ready to welcome Christian missionaries. After Pope Gregory had told Augustine this news and had discussed the situation with him further, Augustine rejoined his companions and inspired them with his own courage. Taking with them several Franks to act as interpreters, the party crossed safely over to the Isle of Thanet, in the domain of Ethelbert, King of Kent, whom they formally notified of their arrival and of their purpose in coming.|
Ethelbert was still a pagan, but his wife Bertha, daughter of King Charibert of the Franks, had been converted to Christianity. Sitting under a spreading oak, Ethelbert received the missionaries. After listening carefully to their words, he gave them permission to preach to his subjects. He also made over to them a house in Canterbury, with the use of the little stone church of St. Martin, which had stood there since the period of Roman occupation. This had formerly been the oratory of Queen Bertha and her confessor Liud hard. Ethelbert was converted and baptized at Pentecost, 597. After this promising start, Augustine went back to Provence to be consecrated bishop by Vergilius, metropolitan of Arles and papal legate for Gaul. On his return some ten thousand of Ethelbert's subjects were baptized in the Swale River.
Augustine, greatly heartened by the success of his mission, now sent two of his monks to Rome to report to the Pope, and to ask for more helpers. Also he wished to have the Pope's counsel on various problems. When the monks came back to England with a fresh band of missionaries, they brought the pallium for Augustine. Among the new group were Mellitus, Justus, and Paulinus, who was afterwards archbishop of York. With these "ministers of the Word," wrote the Venerable Bede, "the holy Pope sent all things needed in general for divine worship and the service of the Church, viz. sacred vessels, altar cloths, ornaments for churches, and vestments for priests and clerks, and also many books." The latter item was especially important, for the books helped to inspire the great love of learning which characterized the English Church.
Gregory sent to Augustine a plan for developing an ecclesiastical hierarchy and establishing a working organization for the whole country-a plan which was not fully carried out in Augustine's lifetime. There was to be a northern and a southern province, with twelve suffragan bishops in each. In a letter to Mellitus, which is presented earlier, following the life of
In 603 Augustine rebuilt and reconsecrated the Canterbury church and the house given him by King Ethelbert. These structures formed the nucleus for his metropolitan cathedral. They were destroyed by fire in 1067, and the present cathedral, begun by the great Lanfranc in 1070, stands on their site. A converted temple outside the walls of Canterbury was made into another religious house, which Augustine dedicated to St. Peter and St. Paul. After his death this abbey became known as St. Augustine's.
With the King's support, the Christianization of Kent proceeded rapidly, but Gregory's charge had stated, "All the bishops of Britain we commend to your Fraternity." The survivors of the ancient British or Celtic Church and their bishops had been driven westward and southward into Wales and Cornwall by the Saxon conquerors of the fifth century. Here they had persisted as Christian communities, cut off from the outside world. Although they were sound in fundamental doctrine, some of their usages were at variance with those of Rome. Now, in virtue of his archiepiscopal jurisdiction, Augustine invited the Celtic bishops to meet with him at a spot outside the confines of Wessex, which has since come to be known as Augustine's Oak. In long conferences with the representatives of the Celtic Church Augustine urged them to comply with the customs of the rest of Western Christendom, in particular in the method of determining the date of Easter, and to aid him in converting the pagans. Loyalty to their own local traditions, however, and bitterness against their Saxon conquerors, made them unwilling to agree, even though Augustine performed a miracle of healing in their presence to prove the supernatural source of his authority. They consented to attend a second conference, held in Flintshire, but it too proved a failure. Augustine did not rise to greet his Celtic brothers when they arrived and they felt that he lacked Christian humility. They refused either to listen to him or acknowledge him as their archbishop. It was not until 664, at the Synod of Whitby, that their differences were resolved and ecclesiastical uniformity was established.
Augustine's last years were spent in spreading and consolidating the faith in Ethelbert's realm, which comprised large sections of eastern England south of Northumbria. Sees were established in London and Rochester, with Mellitus appointed bishop over one and Justus over the other. Seven years after his arrival Augustine died, leaving the continuation of his work to others.